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Tyson Foods and Water Pollution

The environmental costs of food production.

by | May 22, 2024 | Articles, Environmental, Opinion

A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) concludes that Tyson Foods is responsible for dumping billions of gallons of contaminated water into American waterways. Though efforts to curtail water pollution are surely important, aspects of the report are cause for pause. In the name of “independent public science,” the UCS report reveals pervasive partisan content that suggests the organization – and the attack on Tyson Foods – may have broader implications than merely cleaning up rivers and streams.

Tyson Report Summary

Based on EPA estimates of facility discharges and past studies, the UCS report carries the headline-catchy title “Waste Deep” and chronicles the detrimental impact of effluent discharges from Tyson Foods’ meat processing facilities. Certainly, the consolidation of the agricultural and food processing industries in recent decades has fostered a concentration of pollutants at the expense of human and animal health, food security, local communities, and rural culture. However, the propaganda of the proposed solution would increase government regulatory domination over small operators, a more deadly threat to humanity (and the ecosystem) than polluted waterways.

The report focuses on contaminants being discharged by the company into waterways, though conceding that Tyson Foods has “indicated it was working to address water quality where it operates and put forward a goal to ‘develop Contextual Water Plans at 11 high-risk U.S. locations by 2025.’” UCS does not propose to trust the company to clean up its own operations, instead advocating to regulate the entire industry: to expand EPA, USDA, and other federal oversight of the nation’s 7,000 meat and poultry processors because of the alleged sins of Tyson, which operates 41 plants in the US. This echoes new EPA rules that expand its jurisdiction over nitrogen and phosphorous discharges by meat and poultry processors, despite the massive economic compliance costs this will place on small operators.

“Filling Olympic-Size Swimming Pools”

The UCS report employs the bizarre metric of claiming Tyson’s discharges would “fill 132,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.” This unscientific alarmism reflects a politicized assessment. However much cleaning up water discharges may be justified, the attack on Tyson Foods appears to be a Trojan Horse to advance sweeping government control of food and farming.

UCS claims it is a purveyor not of Big Government servitude but “real science.” Its website proclaims:

“The Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists works for strong, independent public science, a robust, transparent democracy, justice for overburdened communities, and the effective use of science in making policy that serves the common good.


“If these decisions are to be practical and effective, they must be grounded in facts and evidence. If they are to be just and equitable, everyone in the community must have a voice in their making. Thus science and democracy are indispensable partners in ensuring that public decisions serve the public interest.”

The report is saturated with social justice ideology, including concern for “marginalized communities” and the always dubious “equity” word indispensable to the woke folks. The unscientific ideological underpinnings of this purportedly science-based report are reflected in the policy shifts advocated.

Biden’s “Social Justice” Undermines Food Supplies

This assault on small operators for the transgressions of large corporations is a longstanding ruse common to the Biden administration’s supposed environmental initiatives. Although the UCS report glowingly recounts Biden’s support of small processing facilities (nothing partisan there), it ignores that his proposed expansion of federal regulatory power over small processors will undermine profitability and cause many to close – hurting small farms and local food security. Biden’s SEC, EPA, and USDA have all similarly introduced regulatory changes that will disproportionately impact small farms and local food production. The US federal assault on small farms looks more and more like the EU assault on farmers in many nations there.

Biden’s regulations for PFAS reveal a similar inversion: Toxic “forever chemicals” will be “studied” by the EPA for years before any cessation is implemented under new rules, though these discharges will fill more swimming pools than Tyson’s effluent, churned out rapidly thanks to government funding of EVs, heat pumps, wind turbines, and solar panels that spew thousands of these toxins into the air, water, and consumer products. Biden’s vaunted PFAS drinking water standards impose the clean-up costs on the very same marginalized communities for whom the UCS claims it is advocating.

How many Olympic-size swimming pools could have been filled from 2018-2022 with the jet fuel burned in planes for recreational travel, the gasoline used to mow expansive lawns weekly, or the diesel fuel consumed by snow-making machines for ski resorts? None of these produce food, and none are targets of Biden administration environmental justice regulation.

One might think that water cleanup regulations would not exempt such low-hanging environmental fruit in favor of undermining the food supply and driving up prices.

Read More From John Klar

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